Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Here's Looking at You Mitch. (1912-2009)
Academy Award winning actor Karl Malden has passed away at the age of 97.
The prolific actor starred in dozens of movies, television shows and plays. It was his performance in a "A Streetcar Named Desire" (perhaps my favorite film of all time) that earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor being part of what is perhaps the greatest ensemble work captured on film.
He played Mitch, the kind, pure hearted overachiever wooing Vivien Leigh's not so pure Blanche DuBois. Mitch could've been played as a silly character, but Malden brought to him an integrity that is only more impressive when he unleashes his beastly side (in one of the most electrifying scenes ever).
He did great work with directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Franklin J. Schaffner, Norman Jewison, John Frankenheimer and Elia Kazan, who arguably gave him his greatest acting challenges in movies like "Streetcar", "Baby Doll" and "On the Waterfront" in which he played a hard fighting priest looking for justice within the corruption of dock union bosses.
Ironically more than four decades later he ended up "reprising" his role as he became an advocate of awarding Kazan with an Honorary Oscar. Kazan had become controversial and polarizing after "naming names" before the HUAAC.
But just like his character in "On the Waterfront" does with Brando's Terry Malloy, Malden saw beyond the "stool pigeon" labeling and reminded the world that Kazan after all had been an artist.
Malden served as President of AMPAS from 1988-1992. May he rest in peace.